Tag Archives: friends

Trekkin’ around the state

It’s been a whirlwind few days!

As I mentioned previously, Lane went to Buffalo on Monday.  My dad was here visiting for one night with his fiancee from Sunday to Monday, and as they were preparing to leave, Lane started saying she REALLLLY wanted to go to Buffalo with Grandpa Jerry.  Well, he’s retired, and she wouldn’t miss anything more than a few days of preschool and a dance class.  So she went.  By all reports they had a blast.  Tuesday was an off weather day in Buffalo so they hung out at home and watched movies, and Wednesday they went to the Buffalo Zoo.  (I am happy to report no polar bears died while they were visiting.)

Then, Jake and I drove up there on Wednesday afternoon and got there about 9:00 p.m.  Thursday was general hanging-out-with-relatives, and my dad took Jake to see choo-choos (my dad used to work on the railroad).

I also had a very sweet, very frank conversation with my brother about life stuff and relationship stuff of which I will not violate his confidence by divulging the details here, but it make my heart sigh, in that good way.  He’s a good egg who just needs to sort out his priorities a little and really realize he’s more grown-up and mature than he gives himself credit for.

Then, Friday, the kids and I headed for the Albany area, where we visited with my friend Amanda and her new, perfect little baby, and where Frank rendez-vous’ed with us.  We stayed there last night, and then went to my friend Cari’s daughter’s first birthday party, where we also saw other friends we hadn’t seen in awhile, being caught up in the whole moving-into-our-house-and-getting-it-spiffied-up whirlwind, as we are.  But there are tentative plans to get together with the other friends in the next couple weeks, and for Amanda to visit at some point in November, so we’re getting caught up, socially, which feels good.

And now we are home, and I’m sitting on my own couch, and I’m relishing that we don’t have to travel anywhere until Christmas (unless we choose to do so otherwise, before then).  Not that we won’t be busy – we have a dining room that needs wallpaper stripped and a coat of the “tomato bisque” paint I bought before Thanksgiving, among a couple other rooms that need painting.  But after our last two busy weekends… bring on the paint.  🙂

A correction

I wrote yesterday that all my public breastfeeding experiences had been positive.  I forgot about the only one where I’d gotten a negative reaction.

Lane was about five or six weeks old, and I was out shopping for a crib for her.  (No time like the present!)  As I’ve mentioned, she has impeccable timing.  As the saleslady was writing up the sale on the crib and changing table, my boobs were enthusiastically summoned.  So I nursed her, discreetly, sitting in a glider rocker on the sales floor and finished conducting my business.

Later on, a friend who was with me and helping me shop commented that he was taken aback by my actions…. he never outright condemned what I’d done, but made it clear it made him uncomfortable and questioned whether the public nursing was appropriate.

Lucky for him, he’s a good guy and a close friend, and I didn’t punch him in the balls.  It helped that his wife, another very good friend, was there too and totally took my side.  Honestly, I was a bit taken aback myself.  I’d mentally prepared for negative fallout from strangers but didn’t ever expect it from a close friend!  I can’t remember most of what was said as I was still sort of in that newborn-baby-induced-sleep-deprived-fog but I think the gist of my message to him was “get over it” and “when you have a kid, I’m sure your wife will do it, too” and his wife heartily concurring with both points.

(I can say in his defense that his exposure to my breastfeeding my kids is probably his first real experience with such a relationship.  I may have been his first close friend to have a baby, and while his brother had a baby before I did, I’m pretty sure she was formula-fed.  This was new territory for him.  And since he’s so opinionated open and communicative, he was eager to share his point of view with me.)

It’s funny to reflect on that now, because his wife, my very good friend, is due to have their first baby — technically in a month but really, anytime soon.  She is 100% totally determined to breastfeed, so good for her.  And he’s come a long way… I’ve nursed in front of him a ton more since then, so either he’s more comfortable with it in general, or he just learned to keep his piehole shut.  Maybe it was a combination of the two… at first, shut piehole, but gradually getting desensitized until one day he realized “hey, this isn’t freaking me out.”  Regardless, he loves my kids like they are his own and they totally dig him too (and the same goes for his wife, who I know reads here and I don’t want her to think I don’t know she adores my kids.  I know.  I love them both immensely for the love and affection they show my children.)

Anyway, he’s going to be a great dad, even if he does get a little overprotective of his wife’s breasts from time to time.  I’d love to be able to reassure him by saying “Hey, don’t worry!  Nobody’s trying to look at your wife’s boobs” but the truth is, she’s got big frigging boobs.  Everyone looks at her boobs.  I look at her boobs.  And pregnancy has made them even bigger… who knows what her milk coming in will do to them.  So, sorry buddy, they are looking.  But they’d be looking anyway, even if there wasn’t a baby attached.  Don’t get too worked up over it.

Girl fight!

I started playing around in Facebook, and have come across some old friends.

Most surprising, well, maybe not if I really think about it, has been catching up with one girl, M, that I played basketball with in high school.

M and I were very on-again, off-again friends.  We were both very competitive (though she definitely had more natural talent at basketball than I did), both very hot-headed, and both very fun-loving and somewhat goofy.  When we got along, we got along really well.  When we didn’t get along, we were at each other’s throats.  We had spells where we were inseparable, and periods where we wouldn’t even look at each other — or where we would, but we would shoot daggers with our eyes.  She’s the only girl I’ve ever really gotten in a physical altercation with, catalyzed by living together for a weekend one summer while we attended a basketball clinic.

Now, we both are married, we both have kids (she has a 1 year-old), and we’ve been writing back and forth via Facebook catching up.  We’re finding the traits that fueled our love/hate relationship in high school are the same ones we’ve dealt with becoming mothers — finding those coping mechanisms so as to not terrorize our children with our tempers, mostly.  But other commonalities, too… finding the balance between our professional lives and motherhood, stuff like that.

Honestly, she’s not someone I’d wondered much about since high school, but as we’re catching up, I’m glad we’ve gotten in touch.  I think part of the reason we were at each other’s throats so much in high school was because we were so similar, but maybe a bit crippled by our own immaturities and adolescent attitudes.

Update on Gregory

We just got his latest email.  He’s in Bulgaria, he’s had nothing to do with Serbia, and isn’t going there.  Were he home when this had happened, he’d have a lot of work to do right now, but since he wasn’t, he got to try to climb a mountain outside Sofia.  So he is safe and Belgrade is in the capable hands of one of his State Department colleagues.

I’m going to share with you part of his email – reprinted completely without any permission from the author whatsoever (because frankly I’d rather beg forgiveness than ask permission).  Tell me this guy shouldn’t be writing his own blog!

Yesterday I decided I was going to do something outdoorsy, which is actually pretty easy here in Sofia.  The city is hugged to the south by a rather large range of snow-topped mountains, all about 6-7000 feet tall, collectively called Mount Vitosha.  Most of the area is included in Vitosha National Park, which has all of the regular national park amenities, like pretty views, good hiking, skiing, etc.  Well, I’m not a skier, so I figured I’d fixate on those other two.  I took off pretty early in the morning (after my wonderful Hilton breakfast, of course) and headed for the closest part of the park.  An hour later I’d given up on walking, and had taken a taxi the rest of the way.  (Mountains look very close, but they never seem to move as you walk towards them.)  It really wasn’t that far– about a three-dollar taxi ride– but I figured I’d save my legs for hiking.  It was a beautiful day out in Sofia: temperatures around 60 degrees, sunny, generally a great Saturday for February.  The taxi dropped me off at an historic church at the foot of the mountain that is listed among UNESCO’s world heritage sites, and as soon as the car was out of sight, I realized I had left my gloves in the back seat.  No worries– they were $5 cheapo stretch gloves and it was getting warmer by the minute.  I explored the church for about 15 minutes, and decided that, the spoiled person I am, I am going to take a hiatus from painted churches of antiquity.

I know some of you will start making whining noises right now, or playing world’s smallest violins, but I really have had enough of painted churches of antiquity.  They have all started to look the same, and I just feel that once that happens I should lay off on the whole genre so as not to spoil ones I may not have seen yet, but that are deserving of my attention and admiration.  This church was built in the 11th century, then expanded and renovated in the year 1259.  The paintings were interesting enough– they mostly depicted the life of Saint Nikolai– but they were historically important because they used real human facial expressions, which is something that European painters elsewhere didn’t do for at least another hundred years (or so I am told) in renaissance Italy.  Also important was the mixing of the portraits of saints with those of real people; in this case, the benefactor, his wife, and their cousins, the King and Queen of Bulgaria.  (Although someone at the embassy said that every portrait is basically the same face, superimposed on a different set of clothes; I tend to agree, but saying so would be unappreciative of art and history and the like, no?)  My experience in the church truly shows how universal the English language is (and also how lucky I am to be a native speaker thereof).  The Bulgarian-speaking tour guide and the Japanese-speaking visitors were discussing the paintings in English, while I listened along.  Amazingly, these Japanese people, who seemed very professionally dressed and were probably diplomats or successful businessmen (touring the national park area in suits…) just could not fathom the idea that the same Saint Nikolai, who we saw painted and dressed in black and white robes with giant crosses, was the same person who became Santa Claus.  The tour guide attempted unsuccessfully to explain to the people that, in fact, Saint Nikolai was known for being good with children; over time, this turned into a myth that he gave gifts to children and then, somewhere along the line, he apparently took up venison farming, moved up north and started his own sweat shop.  The Japanese were stunned.

Making my way out of the church, I decided upon my new law of not visiting any more painted churches of antiquity, and headed up the hill towards the forest line.  Along the way I stopped to ask a nice old lady on the street where the trail began.  She began (nicely, I think) to explain to me where the trail head was (I think).  There was a lot of waving and pointing and slurring and headscratching.  Her hat came off, to reveal a lovely head of patchy hair, of the faded Eastern European magenta variety; her mouth opened to reveal a chasm possibly matching my son’s in terms of the number of teeth present, except in all of the opposite locations (I’d guess she was only a fan of brushing her molars…).  I backed away, smiling, and headed in the general direction she had pointed.  Luckily, I had asked the tour guide at the church what the word for “waterfall” was in Bulgarian (there was a waterfall along the trail, according to the guide book) and found a sign with the word on it, and an arrow.  (The word is “VODAPAD,” in case you are interested; looks more like “BOAA|7AA” if you ask me, but you didn’t.)  I began to head up the hill, the bottom of which had just a tiny little patch of ice, melting in the warm late morning sun; how cute.

About an hour and a half later, I gave up when I decided I didn’t want to be “that guy” that people in the embassy are talking about for the next few months’ worth of happy hours.  You know “that guy;” he’s the one that stupidly walked up a mountain in February, got stuck on a freakin’ glacier, and had to be airlifted out of the national park, causing all sorts of official Americans to have to go in to work on a Saturday and generally making the US look pretty stupid on the Bulgarian evening news; you don’t want to be “that guy.”  Maybe an hour into my lovely hike the air began to get decidedly colder, and patches of snow showed up, here and there, beside the trail.  Within ten minutes or so, the patches turned into snow cover, and then to snow on top of ice; this finally gave way to about four inches of solid ice lining the trail, both sides of the trail, and any tree limbs that happened to be within reach of anyone who happened to be attempting to walk on the trail.  That’s about the point where I looked around, took some pictures, and turned around, dejected.  I had made it so close to that damn VODAPAD, with no luck!  I think I saw the base of it, which was probably the cause of all that ice; however, the guidebook said it was 15 meters tall, which is more than 45 feet, and I don’t think what I saw was that tall.  Oh well.  Of course the way down was way trickier than the way up– I hate climbing down mountains; for some reason, climbing up is always way easier for me, even in places like the long Metro escalators.  I’m a freak, I guess, but I tend to think that falling up, on your face, is better than falling backwards, on your butt, or off the mountain.  I passed several people while I was going down, all of whom were attempting to take the same circuitous route I had just given up on; I wished them all luck, and I think with each group of hikers my measurement of the thickness of the ice at the end grew exponentially (as in, “it’s a freakin’ glacier”).  I got my hiking and view in, though, which made the trip a partial success.

(Greg, seriously though, let me know if me including this here is in any way offensive or uncomfortable for you and I will remove it completely.) 

No idea where this is going

So today was Valentine’s Day.  Meh.  Frank and I don’t really celebrate it; I bought him a card for it like four years ago that I keep meaning to give to him one of these days; some Valentine’s Day he is going to get the cutest card.   Just not this year.

And he is still sick.  He was well enough today to drag himself into work.  But he took three days off after being essentially out of work the whole week before due to completing his final assessment.  Three sick days is unheard of for him… he’s the guy that everyone in the office has to tell, “Will you PLEASE go home!?!?”  So he was really really sick.  And still recovering.  Needless to say, there is no need for us to do any sort of ‘celebrating’ today.

Not that I didn’t use the day as a feeble excuse to have a little bit of fun.  I had like a glass and a half of merlot tonight, and Lane and I made brownies today.  Mmmm brownies.  With walnuts.  And they’re just a touch undercooked.  Yum.  I really wanted to put chocolate chips in them, too, but apparently there is some sort of wrinkle in the space-time continuum in my pantry, and there were no chocolate chips to be found.  Well, that is not accurate.  There were white chocolate chips.  And I couldn’t decide if white chocolate chips in brownies with walnuts would be decadently good or completely awful, so I erred on the side of leaving them out.

My friend Kate makes this creation called Chewy Gooeys.  They are kind of like brownies… except gooier and chewier and caramely and awesome.  Kate lives in New Hampshire, and I live in NY state, so I’ve only had the pleasure of Chewy Gooeys a la Kate a couple of times, which I am grateful for.  It’s probably pretty amazing I’ve gotten to have them at all, given she’s a friend I found online.  She does have the honor of being the only online friend who’s ever been to my house.  Though we’ve been talking about a rendez-vous somewhere around Worcester, MA sometime in the next couple of months so fingers-crossed maybe I’ll get them again… though I really shouldn’t be asking for anything, given that she sent me a very very pretty birthday present.  And tongs.  Don’t get me wrong, the tongs were pretty too, as far as tongs go.  But the scarf is stunning.  (Seriously Kate — I do like the tongs too!!)

As you can see, Kate knits.  And for some reason, Kate likes me enough to have bestowed (bestown?)  multiple fruits of her labor on me.  I am in constant awe of the gorgeous things that come off her needles, even if they aren’t for me.

I think it’s become something she used to do, but my best friend Amanda, who I did get to know in real life, went through a knitting phase too, and I have a gorgeous baby blanket and a sweater/hat/booties set from her as well.

Knitting is cool, and I always find myself envious of those who can do it and do it well.

I’ve sort of on-and-off tried teaching myself to knit.  I can cast on well enough, and do a knit stitch pretty effortlessly, but then I try to purl and I feel like a complete moron.  Kate, when she first started knitting, just knit a whole bunch of practice squares and then sewed them all together to make a blanket.  I’m thinking I’m just going to do the same.  I’ve got a few balls and/or skeins of yarn about from past knitting forays, so I’m just going to knit.  A little here, a little there, and damn it, I WILL FIGURE OUT HOW TO PURL IF IT IS THE END OF ME!!

I don’t have any big knitting aspirations.  I’d love to be able to make hats.  I love winter hats.  Scarves are pretty cool, too.  I’m not sure I have the patience or stick-to-it-ivness to handle an adult-sized sweater, but never say never.  And it sure would be fun to put together a baby blanket or two as my friends procreate.

(When I was making quilts I made a couple for friends who got married… as fun as that was, I’ve never seen one of my quilts out in the open in their homes.  Hmmm.  Did they have to use the quilt to start a fire one day when their heat went out?  Was the quilt kidnapped?  I feel too silly to ask.  I wonder if baby blankets would have the same fate.)

I’m not frugal

I know a few people who are awesome at frugality.

I’m not.

I can take advantage of a good deal with the best of them, for sure.  I buy in bulk when prudent.  I only buy cereal on sale.  I try to buy most of my produce at our local produce mart, which is not only cheaper but has better quality stuff.

Someone smart told me that even rich people can get on a budget.  Not that I’m rich, but I should probably do the budget thing.  As I’ve mentioned before, I recently quit my 9-5, well-paying, Fortune 100 company career/job/lifestyle and am staying home with my two babes.  It’s wonderful and I wouldn’t trade it for a second.  But we’re shopping for a house, and even with the help promised by my in-laws to buy one, the one we’re looking at, right next door to my in-laws’ house (oh and that is a post in itself)… the cost of it is giving me heart palpitations.  We’ll have a serious hunk of our monthly income going toward housing costs.  Vacations will not be an option over the next couple years unless someone (a.k.a. my in-laws) picks up the tab.  My husband’s moving up in the actuary world and the truth of the matter is that in a few years, the house that gives me palpitations will most likely be quite affordable then.  But for some time, it’s going to be tight.  I may have to pick up a part-time gig to help.  But I’ll definitely need to budget, and rein in my spending.  I like to shop.  I often need to shop, as I have two kids that grow like weeds, it seems.

Jake didn’t get into 12 month sized clothes that long ago, and damned if he isn’t already showing signs of outgrowing some of the stuff already.  Normally this would have me dropping a couple hundred dollars in the nearest Old Navy… not this time!  My PaidTwice pal would be proud… I found two lots of clothes on eBay, that will essentially clothe him for the entire summer, including swimsuits but not including pajamas,  for a grand total including shipping of $36.  Not shabby… and neither are the clothes.  They don’t even look used.

I’ve done used clothes off eBay before, but I need to do it more.  I also have to check out the consignment store circuit in our area and see what deals are to be had.  I simply can’t afford to drop serious coin on kids’ clothes any longer… not if we are going to live in the house we want to live in.

Enabling the Mommy Milk

I’m a breastfeeder.  I’ve had two kids, so far, and they have both been happy to partake in the milk a great deal.  For reasons too numerous to count or list out, I like breastfeeding, they like breastfeeding, and it works for us.

I wouldn’t call myself a ‘lactivist’ or that awful term ‘breastfeeding nazi’.  I do like to advocate breastfeeding and encourage those near and dear to try it.  I recommend books.  I’ve let a couple friends watch me breastfeed.  I’m open about my own experiences – the troubles I’ve had, how much I’ve enjoyed it, good comeback lines when faced with stupid people.  I hope I’ve helped where there have been successes, and I’m very happy for the people I know who have successfully breastfed their children.

And unlike the ‘nazis’ out there, I don’t think formula is evil.  I think it’s stupid that it’s called formula — I’d love to see a truth-in-advertising law passed that made the formula companies call their product “artificial human milk” since that’s what it is.  But many women cannot breastfeed, due to medical, physical or emotional issues.  Many women get bad breastfeeding information which creates insurmountable hurdles in the breastfeeding relationship.  Some babies just cannot latch well and get the food they need from a breast.  There are zillions of pumps available, but the best pump in the world simply cannot maintain a milk supply as well as a baby, so for most women it is really impossible to exclusively pump for long.  Plus, pumping sucks.  I’ve had to do it when I worked full-time, and it sucks.  It takes a ton of time, it’s impersonal and weird and awkward and messy and just ugh.  Plus there’s the situations where there simply isn’t a lactating mother around.  A lactating mother dies or is imprisoned.  A baby is adopted.  Mom gets sick with cancer or something else awful and has to take meds that are incompatible with breastfeeding.  So, for these and a bunch other reasons, formula comes in very handy.

And yes, someone more militant than me could come along and refute everything in that last paragraph.  I could refute a lot of it.  But at the same time, I simply can’t pretend to know what it’s like to have a baby that refuses to latch, or to have been sexually assaulted and to hate my own body so much I cannot get comfortable letting a baby nurse from my own breasts.  So to any breastfeeding advocate who would take such an insensitive position, screw off.  You’re not wanted here.

That said…

I know someone who just had a baby.  Actually, she’s a very dear friend.  She tried breastfeeding, ran into some minor issues (most women do) and I guess decided it wasn’t for her, and soon enough the baby was on formula.  It’s not unexpected – she was never very committed to the idea of breastfeeding, and her older sister, who is very much a role model for her, did not breastfeed her daughter for long.  I’ve had to spend some time figuring out how I feel about it.  Am I disappointed in her?  Do I think she didn’t try enough?  Do I think she should have tried harder?

Really, I guess I don’t feel much of anything about it.  The breastfeeding relationship I have with my kids is super special, I love the intimacy and closeness it provides, and I hope for my friend that even absent that aspect of her mother/daughter relationship, she’ll find ways to achieve that closeness and intimacy.  I am a little disappointed, I guess.  Formula is a perfectly adequate food for most babies, but the reality is that breastmilk is superior, I can’t ignore that, which I guess where the disappointment comes from.  But, I hope my friend’s baby will be one of those that her mother can say, “Well, she was formula fed and she doesn’t have a smidge of a health issue.”  I am also just a little worried that the baby will have a health issue, and that my friend will question herself or have guilt because of it, wondering if it would have not happened if she’d breastfed.  I don’t want my friend to feel guilty.  I want her to spend every ounce of her mothering energy loving her gorgeous daughter.